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Musings of an Energy Nerd

Allison Bailes Publishes a Book

This reference work deserves to be on the shelf of every residential designer and builder

The subtitle of Bailes's new book is "An Introduction to Building Science."

Allison Bailes’s new book, A House Needs to Breathe … Or Does It?, is the best available introduction to building science for residential designers, contractors, and owner-builders. GBA readers in search of a building science reference work should go out and buy a copy.

Bailes has been writing blogs for GBA for years; his inaugural article, Is There a Downside to Lumpy Attic Insulation?, appeared in January 2011. Bailes is a Georgia-based energy consultant, HVAC system designer, and blogger. He’s known for his folksy ability to explain complex building science topics with an entertaining (and occasionally corny) sense of humor—an approach that allows readers to grasp difficult concepts even as they occasionally roll their eyes.

A House Needs to Breathe … Or Does It? is a handsome 360-page hardback. It is generously illustrated with clear photographs and well labeled multi-color graphs. The book’s designers and editors deserve a share of the praise that the book’s author has justly earned.

While the book retains Bailes’s accessible style, the reference work is mostly sober and straightforward. To Bailes’s credit, his new book tones down his corny sense of humor (although he couldn’t resist his urge to republish the photo of a naked man jumping on a bed).

The starting point is physics

Many authors (including several GBA bloggers) have published books aiming to advise designers, builders, or homeowners on ways to build durable, comfortable buildings that use less energy than conventional buildings. Each book has a different focus. Compared to other similar books, Bailes’s book has fewer jobsite tips for weatherization workers and builders, and more information on the physics underlying building science. Bailes takes deep dives into issues like vapor diffusion, adsorbtion, and heat flow calculations.

Readers who are focused on green building and climate…

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4 Comments

  1. Expert Member
    MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #1

    Congratulations to Allison! The books that have been published by authors associated with GBA form a really impressive collection.

    If you have The Musings of an Energy Nerd, The Pretty Good House, and now A House Needs to Breathe, you have a really comprehensive library of building science.

  2. dankolbert | | #2

    Just diving in this week. It's going to be an essential reference for a lot of builders and designers. The perfect book for GBA readers who are BS obsessives and are looking to deepen their scientific understanding.

    Full disclosure - i'm an old friend of AB3's (although he's probably older) and donated to his book-raising. But I'd already learned a tremendous amount from him and was not surprised by great the book is.

  3. billfrombirchwood | | #3

    Book is very readable. Does not cover entropy which is the concept that job sites getting messier over time unless you put some energy into them. Better than reading my old Chemical Engineering textbooks!

  4. andre_d | | #4

    I have been searching for a reliable BS book and had my eyes on “Buildings Don’t Lie” by Henry Gifford, any unbiased thoughts? Almost same price point. Thanks.

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